The BMC R&D Lab pull out all stops every year to help the BMC Racing Team riders achieve their absolute best by providing them with the absolute best equipment. The quest to optimize Cadel’s TM01 was a journey that involved countless hours in the wind tunnel, on the computer, and in the laboratory, to evaluate how seconds could be shaved off his times by reducing the impact of wind resistance.
In a relentless search to maximize Cadel’s power output, his position has evolved over the years to a very low, stretched-out, and aggressive position which no other rider (that we know of) is able to maintain. In the off-season, the 2011 Tour de France winner has been known to go for 200km training rides which include mountain passes with his time trial bike. Hardly typical time-trial training, but this is part of the reason Cadel has succeeded in training his body to accommodate and become familiar with such an extreme position.
In 2010, the BMC R&D lab began analyzing Cadel on his TM01 in a wind tunnel, to determine the optimum bike fit and body position to maximize aerodynamics without sacrificing his power output. The ‘P2P’ (short for ‘Position to Perform’) modular stem of the TM01 allows for up to more than 30 configurable stem/handle positions. However, despite its highly flexible nature, something more extreme was needed for Cadel. Which is where the BMC R&D Lab came in: they were able to create a fully customized, one-piece unit that integrates all cables and comes complete with 3T base bars.
Ingredients for a one piece fork / handlebar unit:
- Carbon base bars from 3T
- BMC TM01 fork
- Pair of carbon tubes, and
- Carbon laminate to bond and secure the assembly
All these parts were trimmed to fit and then set onto a jig to precisely bond everything together. By using thin carbon shells to create an aerodynamic assembly, the elements of the cockpit could be seamlessly connected to the fork which houses various cables and wire junctions for Shimano’s Di2 system. The necessary tools to laminate stiff carbon fiber composite shells are CNC-machined and made entirely in-house at BMC, thus giving the outer shape and strength to the structure.
The Finishing Touch
Raw carbon composite parts rarely look good, and the finishing process involved in cleaning them up requires as much patience as expertise. After bonding, excess glue is cleaned from the joints and putty is applied at the seams. The entire skin is then sanded to a fine grain to receive a first layer of paint. Decals and graphics are applied by water transfer and allowed to dry before the final few layers of clear coat can be applied, one by one while sanding between each layer.
In total, about 30 hours of manual labor are necessary to complete one prototype, including CAD drawings, tool making, carbon fiber laminating, and finishing work. Annually, only about 3 such customized pieces are made, and they are specifically used on race-winning time trial machines, such as the one Cadel rode to take the yellow jersey on the final stage of the 2011 Tour de France.